The Disraeli Room

The Disraeli Room

Blog Post

Devolution for Greater Manchester

14th October 2014

Respublica recently published its report calling for Greater Manchester to have control over the £22 billion it spends each year on public services, with accompanying financial flexibilities. The report reasons that if you give Manchester the ability to target spend and redesign services as best fit its residents’ needs, then it will be able to reduce the £5 billion gap between public spend and tax revenue to make Manchester a net contributor to the national purse. Whilst the report is radical and goes beyond what we are currently proposing, it has publicised the idea of ‘Devo-Manc’ and GM’s ongoing work around growth and reform on a national scale. It’s not just a pro-national Scotland who feels constrained by Westminster, over-centralisation is limiting the economic potential of our second tier English cities too.

The recent JRRT ‘State of the Nation’ poll found that 85% of those surveyed agreed that local communities should have more say over decisions that effect them. We need to instil this belief and sense of purpose in our national politicians to drive through change, starting with the areas which have the governance, leadership and track record to act as trailblazers. This could sit in parallel to the post-referendum work in Scotland, but it cannot get subsumed into the national debates; regardless of what happens in terms of English or Scottish Parliaments we need to address the limits that over-centralisation has put on our core cities outside of this constitutional change. There is no one-size fits all solution; devolution will look different depending on place. Nor should it be a one-off event, it will be a long process that needs to evolve over time, with (in our case) Manchester and Whitehall working together to the common goal. GM’s ambition is to become a financially self-sustaining city and a net contributor to the Exchequer – this should be the outcome we all work towards.

GM is the largest functional economic area in the UK outside London, bigger than Wales and Northern Ireland. The Manchester Independent Economic Review – the most robust economic analysis ever undertaken of a city – concluded that outside London, GM is the city region which has the greatest potential for growth given its scale and potential for improving productivity. We have the right skills, people, businesses, coupled with the ambition to succeed. But even after the longest period of sustained economic growth and increases in public spending ever recorded, worklessness and public sector dependency in GM have not significantly reduced. In response we have spent the past few years developing and delivering upon a strategy designed around the twin pillars of growth and reform. We are developing an approach that will support the delivery of growth and reform in a truly integrated way, delivering the maximum impact within the shortest possible time, effecting change at scale and pace.

We believe that, at this point in time, Greater Manchester is unique in having the capacity and leadership to implement this agenda. And we are seeking to establish a platform for devolution that empowers local leaders to take control of the levers and resources that impact on our ability to deliver economic growth and to improve the quality of life for local residents.

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